16 Challenging Steps to Becoming an Experience-Driven Organization

I am speaking at UI13 in a couple of weeks, and have been mulling on what I should talk about. I’ve decided on a talk tentatively titled “16 Challenging Steps to Becoming a Customer-Experience-Driven Organization.” The point being, it’s a slog, and you ought to be prepared for it. The 16 steps come from our work and research at Adaptive Path. Here they are.

Assess your organization’s experience maturity.
Understand people as people.
Execute a quick win.
Evangelize success.
Get an executive sponsor.
Move up the product planning food chain.
Develop an experience strategy.
Communicate that strategy with a clear and compelling vision.
Connect your work to financial outcomes.
Accept accountability.
Thaw the frozen middle.
Choose projects objectively.
Engage in design as an activity.
Think systems, not artifacts.
Deliver the Long Wow.
Do not become a department.

And Oskar Werner as Jules

Something I hadn’t realized until now is that Jules et Jim (perhaps my favorite Truffaut film) has been on my Tivo for two years now (don’t ask). I first saw the film in college, and what I remembered most was Oskar Werner’s remarkable performance. I didn’t recall if he played Jules or Jim, but watching it now, just found out… Jules!


And isn’t he pretty!

(Though, of course, if memory serves, Jules in the movie is remarkably sad… Again, part of Werner’s remarkable performance is his sensitivity, how he carries that off.)

Quality filmmaker documentaries on YouTube

While on family leave, I’m looking for things to watch and listen to, since I often have my hands full and cannot read. TiVo is moderately helpful, but I’m finding I need more, so I’ve been poking around looking for interesting things online. The best I’ve come across so far is “matt7773″‘s collection of arts and culture documentaries. Over the course of yesterday I watched all 2 hours of an excellent interview with Orson Welles that tracked his career film by film. I’ve just begun watching a doc on the making of 2001, and looking over his collection you’ll see material on Philip K Dick, William S Burroughs, David Bowie, Werner Herzog, Robert Altman, Alfred Hitchcock, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, and more, all of which is taken from British television in the mid 90s.

Jules Joseph Merholz

Among the challenging decisions new parents must make is the name of their child. It’s a lifetime commitment, and not something to be taken lightly.

We very quickly settled on his middle name, Joseph. It’s my dad and brothers’ middle name, and Stacy’s grandfather’s first name and brother’s middle name. So, a family name on both sides. Done.

The first name was trickier. Early on I proposed David, my middle name. I’ve always liked the name David (and when I was a little kid, wished it had been my first name). But I was concerned that giving him my middle name might be narcissistic, so we kept our eyes open for alternatives.

In July, I posted about The Naked City. It’s directed by Jules Dassin, and I turned to Stacy at some point, and said, “How about Jules?” Jules works for us on many levels. Most important: my mom’s name is Julie, so it’s a kind of family name. Also, well, I sincerely appreciate the director’s work, and, frankly, his left-leaning politics. The Beatles’ song “Hey Jude” was originally titled “Hey Jules,” and that makes for a good lullaby. And, of course, there’s the pun on “jewels”.

24 hours after his birth, we still hadn’t settled on a name. We like both David and Jules quite a lot, and I found myself vacillating between the two. Earlier I made a comment that “David Joseph,” while a good name, sounds like the name of somebody else’s child. “Jules Joseph” sounds like the name of our child (It helped that Jules is an anachronistic name, which both plays into our love of history, and allows us to own it more.”. As we’re staring at the birth certificate form, Stacy said, “It’s Jules,” and we were done.

So, there you have it. Jules Joseph Merholz.

Where’s the Lester Bangs of Comics?

(I started writing this before the birth of our son. So the timing is a little off)

This weekend I devoured Reading Comics, a book of comics criticism by Douglas Wolk. (Thank goodness for the library — I would have felt like a schmuck had I paid for something I read so quickly.)

It was: okay. Douglas makes some pretty good points, and clearly has pretty decent taste, though he is an admitted comics fanboy. I suppose my primary issue with it is that, with a title like “Reading Comics”, and a subtitle “How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean,” I was expecting something more definitive. There is some regard to comics formalism, but you won’t walk away with any better idea of how graphic novels work. Instead, it’s a fairly idiosyncratic and personal view of comics.

Which is fine, except that Douglas’ view isn’t all that interesting. It’s mildly engaging, and reading him gives me the sense that I might enjoy ruminating on comics with him. But he’s not a particularly probing, insightful, or eye-opening critic. He’s just a guy who likes comics and seems to have good taste.

In much the same way that Chuck Klosterman wondered about the Lester Bangs of Video Games, I wonder about the Lester Bangs of Comics. (f you don’t know who Lester Bangs is, may I recommend reading Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, a collection of his work.) What’s important about Lester Bangs criticism is, even if you know little to nothing about what he’s writing about, his style and prose are fantastic to consume, and you come away with a perspective about his subjects that you didn’t have going in. Anthony Lane is probably the closest we have to this in film criticism right now.

Reading Comics was perfectly good as a library read, and it did point me to some comics I just bought (I figure comics might be best for my increasingly sleep-deprived mind.) But seminal comics criticism still awaits!

Stacy and I Have a Baby Boy

This morning, nearly 2 weeks before he was due, our son was born. (He doesn’t have a name yet (we’re still deciding), so we’re calling him Baby. We may still call him Razputin, his in utero name.)

Stacy amazed the staff with the speed of her labor — from water breaking to delivery was nearly exactly 2 hours.

Mom and baby are happy and healthy. There are a few photos, including a disgusting one of placenta, in this Flickr set.

TED, The New New Media Brand

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been fascinated by the ascension of TED as a media brand. TED began in 1984, and for the longest time was an exclusive confab for the smarterati, overseen by its host, curator, and Buddha-figure, Richard Saul Wurman. Since 2003, TED has been run by Chris Anderson, who made his fortune as the head of Imagine Publishing, which published titles like Macaddict, CD-ROM today, PC Gamer, Next Generation, and a host of other computer magazines.

In June 2006, TED did something that would alter its standing forever — it began TEDTalks, a podcast of presentations from TED. (And much credit for TEDTalks goes to my pal June Cohen, whom I’ve known since she wrote about cool sites for Hotwired.) Many people were skeptical — here’s a conference that, in 2007, was going to cost $6000 to attend, and you were giving away the content?

Well, suffice to say that such a giveaway made the conference itself all the more desirable, because people realized what they were missing.

But more importantly, it turned TED from being just a conference into a media brand. People all over the world began watching the videos, and spreading them around. Some of the talks have been viewed millions of times. This has allowed TED to bring on sponsors (initially BMW, then Autodesk) who, I’m pretty sure, underwrite the whole online venture. It’s gotten so that TEDTalks now features presentations from similar events (such as eg and Lift) so that they can keep their pipeline full.

One of the genius elements of TED is the 18-minute limit on talk length. It turns out that 18 minutes isn’t just great for the audience in the room, but it’s a nearly ideal length for a video podcast. (I would argue that the number of people willing to watch an 18 minute talk is an order of magnitude larger than those willing to watch a 45 or 60 minute talk).

So, TED has become a new new media brand. It recognized that what the conference supplied was content that could be leveraged in other ways. What’s been interesting to me is to see how other media brand are adapting. Most notable is The New Yorker, which in the past few years has began its own conference series, which is quite expensive to attend, and has it’s own podcast (iTunes).

Smart media companies are realizing they have to go identify new ways to engage with their audiences, whether its podcasts, conferences, etc. The New Yorker was famously a break-even (if that) publication… I would bet that the conferences bring in higher profits than the print publication. (The scuttlebutt on O’Reilly is that their conferences are now the cash cow, which makes sense, as no one goes into book publishing to make money).

This has become a somewhat haggard and not really tied together post, I realize. What am I saying, in short? If you can, start a conference. If you have a conference, *give away the presentations*. You’ll receive immense value through the associations your content offers, and desire of people to connect in real-time and real-space.

Twitter has something Google doesn’t – immediacy

This is obvious, but it’s worth pointing out, because I think it will be the crux of how Twitter defines its revenue potential. Last week, I tried to find out where I could watch Obama’s acceptance speech. CNN.com had it chunked up (I’m guessing for advertisement views) and the MSNBC site had a bug such that it showed the wrong video. The Democratic Convention site required Silverlight (and wasn’t updating fast enough, anyway), and C-Span took me back to 1999 by giving me a Real Media file. Searching Google gave me nothing, so I threw it out to Twitter, and less then 10 minutes later, Brad pointed me to the BBC. Boom, done.

Google has succeeded in large part because it is the first place people turn when looking for information. Twitter, and it’s real-time Q&A community, could insert itself into that behavior stream, when people know that what they’re looking for has a time-sensitivity that Google simply cannot currently handle.

In more recent days, Twitter has become a valuable in the spread of news, whether Sarah Palin’s nomination, or tracking Gustav. Google’s blog search is nearly as immediate, but just. not. quite. Twitter really does let you dip into a global conversation as it happens, for better and for worse.